Boys BB team wins playoff opener

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MTT News Desk's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton’s Derek Rongstad (left) battles for a loose ball in the regional final against Sun Prairie./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Their season hung in the balance. And the way Middleton’s year had gone, it would have been very easy to count the Cardinals out.

Visiting Madison La Follette opened the fourth quarter of last Friday’s WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal on a 7-0 burst. That gave the Lancers their first lead of the second half at 38-36.

“We had adversity all year,” Middleton senior forward Demond Hill said. “This was just the latest.”

On this night, though, Middleton navigated through the difficulty with aplomb. The Cardinals smacked the Lancers with a 14-4 run, reclaimed a 50-42 lead, and went on to an impressive 57-49 win.

Middleton fell the next night in a regional final at Sun Prairie. But in a year laced with inconsistency, the Cardinals came up big in their final home game of the season.

“Six minutes left … and we knew what we can do and what we had to do,” Cardinals senior guard Luke Schafer said. “We just had to limit the defensive mistakes, make crisp passes and play the way we can.”

Middleton improved to 13-10, while La Follette ended the year 10-13.

Hill led the Cardinals with a season-high 18 points, while Schafer added 13. La Follette junior guard Darold Thomas had 18 points, while junior forward Cortez McCree and senior center Keahn Dunn both added 10.

“This group is one of the most fun I’ve been around,” Middleton coach Kevin Bavery said afterwards. “None of us wanted it to end.”

That appeared to be a 50-50 proposition, though, early in the fourth quarter.

Middleton led, 36-31, at the start of the fourth quarter. But on Lancers’ first three possessions of the final period, Kian O’Brien got free for a layup, Thomas drained a three-pointer and Dunn scored inside.

That gave the Lancers a 38-36 lead with 6:40 left in the game, and put the Cardinals squarely on the ropes.

“It’s the playoffs,” Hill said. “You know it’s going to go back and forth like that.”

Hill stopped the bleeding with a basket off an assist from Schafer. Then senior forward Max Oelerich converted an old-fashioned three-point play for a 41-38 Middleton lead, one it wouldn’t relinquish.

Derek Rongstad — who was limited by flu-like symptoms — and Schafer both knocked down three-pointers. Hill then made two free throws and Middleton’s lead ballooned to 50-42 with 3:38 left.

From there, the Lancers went to their full court press, tried to force a turnover, then foul if that plan failed. For the most part, it did.

Middleton had two turnovers in the final four minutes. But overall, the Cardinals handled the pressure well and made 9-of-13 free throws down the stretch.

“They were going to get a steal or foul us,” Bavery said. “And our guys handled it pretty well.”

Added Hill: “It helps a lot to have two point guards like we do with Luke and Doc. It’s hard for teams to get us out of our rhythm.”

Neither team could find the rhythm early. Both teams came out tentative and sloppy, and 6 ½ minutes into the contest, the Cardinals held a 4-2 lead.

“We weren’t running any offense,” Bavery said. “You could tell guys were definitely nervous.”

Hill was one of the few exceptions, though.

He made all three of his shots and scored six points in the first quarter as the Cardinals led, 8-4, after one.

Hill also knocked down a three-pointer late in the first half as Middleton grabbed a 21-18 halftime lead.

“I thought it was one of Demond’s best games,” Bavery said.

Middleton led, 12-6, early in the second quarter, when La Follette went on a 10-2 run to take a 16-14 lead. The Lancers spread the floor and scored on five straight possessions and took their first lead since 2-0.

But after Hill’s three-pointer gave Middleton a 19-18 lead, Schafer drilled an off-balance 16-footer at the horn as the Cardinals closed the half on a 5-0 run.

Schafer had missed his first four shots. But he made his final four, highlighted by his halftime buzzer-beater.

“That was big for me,” Schafer said. “I knew time was winding down and I had to get up a shot. I got my elbow square and just had good fundamentals.”

Baskets by Rongstad and Derek Rogeberg helped the Cardinals stretch their lead to 25-18 at the start of the third quarter. Middleton’s lead reached as many as eight midway through the third quarter, before the Lancers closed within 36-31 through three periods.

That set the stage for La Follette’s fourth quarter surge, Middleton’s impressive counter punch, and a Cardinals’ victory.

“We have a lot of seniors and I think that helps us,” Schafer said. “We have some maturity … and we don't want this to end yet.”

Hill agreed.

“We’re not ready for this all to end,” Hill said. “This is too much fun.”


Feb. 28

Middleton 57, Madison La Follette 49

Madison La Follette ……………. 4  14  13  18 — 49

Middleton ……………………….…… 8  13  15  21 — 57

MADISON LA FOLLETTE — Darold Thomas 6-16 3-7 18, Kian O’Brien 1-2 0-0 2, Maurice Ewing 3-7 1-4 7, Quinten Shere 1-3 0-0 2, Cortez McCree 3-6 4-8 10, Keahn Dunn 4-7 2-2 10, Jordan Carlson 0-2 0-0 0, Travell Ewing 0-1 0-0 0, Montrell Hannah 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 18-43 10-21 49.

MIDDLETON — Demond Hill 5-8 7-10 18, Luke Schafer 4-8 3-4 13, Derek Rogeberg 2-5 0-0 4, Max Oelerich 1-8 5-5 7, Derek Rongstad 2-6 4-6 9, Ian Hokanson 0-4 0-0 0, C.J. Fermanich 2-2 0-0 4, Chris Little 0-4 2-2 2, Brett Joers 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 16-47 21-27 57.

Three-point goals: MLF 3 (Thomas 3,); Mi 4 (Schafer 2, Rongstad, Hill). Total fouls: MLF 24, Mi 19. 

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